Safe (2012) is the latest Jason Statham actioner directed by Boaz Yakin. It looks cheesier and more generic than The Mechanic (2011) and Killer Elite, two other by-the-books Statham flicks, but Safe actually has a lot going for it in the department that counts. The action is off-the-charts awesome in here, with lots of impressive camera movements and grounded, yet still fun fighting choreography. The story is simple, the acting is laughable, but the overall enjoyment for Safe is much higher than the poorly cut trailer leads you to believe.
Luke Wright (Jason Statham) is a down on his luck former cop in New York City. He’s been a ghost as of late, floating around and participating in cage fights as a way of redemption for the bad things he’s done. A Russian mob lost a lot of money on one of his fights and decides to return the favor by murdering Luke’s wife and making him live to suffer. He’s past the breaking point and is simply walking around town trying to find a good enough reason to continue living a cold and alone life.
That reason comes in the form of Mei (Catherine Chan), a young girl on the run from both the Russian mob and the Triads. She’s a gifted young individual that has a talent for memorizing numbers, codes and basically everything, which makes her very useful for doing the Triads accounting. When the Russians find out of her worth they quickly try and snatch her up. The dirty cops get involved too, knowing that if they have Mei then both mobs will be at their feet.
Luke stumbles into Mei on a subway station and the rest is history. Safe starts out a little rocky, feeling very much like a direct-to-video B movie, but it actually plants its feet and sticks around long enough to become an entertaining popcorn flick that only Statham can do best.
The film’s central character very much represents Statham’s current state of mind in Hollywood. He’s done it all basically and now he’s drifting around the action genre, bored and tired, but aching for a fighting cause. He starts the film very distant, because the character asks for it, but once he starts the killing up you can see a smile sort of take over almost as if he’s putting on an old jacket that he used to wear in better times. It’s fun watching Statham become that ass-kicking star we’ve all known to love, because lately I’ve been worried that maybe he was done with the fun films and cashing in only on the easy paychecks.
That isn’t to say Safe isn’t an easy paycheck. It’s an unbalanced film in terms of actual quality. The acting feels soap opera bad. It’s C-level quality and possibly the worst I’ve seen this year in wide release. Not one single actor appears to actually know their lines, aside from Statham. It’s hard to stomach at first, but it gets to be a bit of fun after a while.
The story is also typical for the genre. Triads, crooked cops and the Russian mafia are as generic as you can get for an action film. It’s a B-level script, but just like the acting, it becomes easier to wash down once the action kicks in.
Safe shines in the action department, which if you’ve been keeping track of my grades, gets an A. The fighting isn’t just a blast to watch because of Statham and his ability to destroy dozens within seconds, but it’s also filmed really well. Boaz Yakin understands camera placement and keeps everything shifting around the room, while maintaining focus on the stuff that counts; breaking bones and dismembering faces.
There’s a lot of clever ongoing stuff that takes the cake over a simple head-shot. Surprisingly a lot of the pointblank gunshots are shown off-screen, with CGI blood spurting out, but the action getting you there is a blast. Car chases feel reinvigorated and nightclub shootouts are suddenly really fun and kind of tense.
It’s hard to describe correctly, but Safe feels like Crank without the character. It’s nowhere near as silly and insane, but remember when you watched Crank and you felt like Neveldine/Taylor were doing something new and fresh? Safe slightly feels like that with the action scenes, but it doesn’t get any props for its characters or story.
I think action fans will enjoy the hell out of this while most people will dismiss it until Blu-ray. Once discovered on Blu-ray people will be surprised with just how much fun Safe really is, if you give it a chance to show its stuff. I thought the trailers were really bad and I wasn’t looking forward to it at all, but it’s acceptance of being a trashy action movie, mixed with the execution of said action is actually kind of great.
Go into Safe expecting quality on par with the trailer and you’ll more than likely walk out surprised.
Safe (2012) – 7.5/10